By Daniele Foti-Cuzzola
Like the panettone at Christmas time, A Colomba cake is a must have for every Italian family at Easter time. The traditional cake is similar in flavour and texture to its Christmas counterpart but is made in the shape of a colomba (dove) which is symbolic of peace and resurrection. Dove shaped moulds are hard to find, so you may have to use cardboard or a few layers of baking paper to create the dove shape mould. This recipe requires a lot of preparation so make sure you plan a day ahead.
- 1/2 cup warm milk
- 1 sachet dry yeast
- ¾ cup plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup dried fruit (combination of raisins and candied orange peel)
- ½ cup slithered almonds
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tablespoon cornflour
- 1 egg white
- Icing sugar
Pour the warm milk into a small bowl and sprinkle one teaspoon of yeast into the warm milk. Stir the yeast and milk together and leave for five minutes until the yeast has dissolved. Add ¾ cup flour and mix together to form a smooth paste. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave it two rest for 12 hours or overnight, unrefrigerated.
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and egg yolks together. Beat in the sugar, remaining yeast, salt and vanilla extract. Add the sponge mixture and softened butter; beat to combine. Add 2 cups of flour and beat just enough to blend in the flour. If using an electric mixer, switch to a dough hook to knead the mixture. Otherwise, transfer to dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until elastic and smooth. If kneading by hand, knead for about 10 minutes. If you are using a dough hook, knead for approximately five minutes. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, incorporate the dried fruit a spoonful at a time and continue to knead until combined.
Place the dough in a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm place for two hours, until the dough has doubled.
Punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll each portion into a log about 12 inches long. Place the first piece of dough into the dove mould in where the wings of the dove would be, going across the body and around the edges of the wings. Then place the second piece on top.
Pat the dough down so there are no gaps in the mould. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, until it has doubled in size. In the meantime prepare the icing.
In a food processor, mix ¼ cup of almonds, sugar, cornflour and egg white. Process until you achieve a smooth paste consistency.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Carefully spread the icing onto the risen bread. Sprinkle the remaining slithered almonds on top and dust with a generous coat of icing sugar. Place the mould onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180 degrees and bake for another 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on the cake, if it is getting too brown, cover the cake with a piece of foil during the last ten minutes or so of baking. Remove from the oven and transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool.
Sprinkle with an additional coat before serving. Colomba is best eaten one or two days after it has been made however keep in an airtight container and it shall last for a week.